My Dad was one of the most creative people I’ve ever known. You know the jingle, “Aussie kids are Weetbix kids?” That was created by my Dad, Pat Aulton. So was the Gough Whitlam election song, “It’s time”. He even had a hit with “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” in Australia, which later went on to feature in The Lion King. Yes, he was multi-talented musically and used his voice, guitar and piano skills to carve out an impressive career in the music industry.

So it seemed a cruel twist of fate that Dad would be diagnosed with throat cancer. I guess I shouldn’t have been shocked given that he smoked and drank for all of his adult life.

The doctors recommended removing part of his throat, including his voice box, but Dad would have no part of this. His voice was his instrument. And so we set upon a regime of chemotherapy and radiation.

I was 27 at the time, and in my final year of a Bachelor of Naturopathy, studying three hours away, and so I was able to spend a good amount of time with him.

Nothing ever prepares you for cancer and how it turns lives upside down. I would go and sit in on his appointments to be there for him, but also to hear about his intended treatment so I could prescribe any complementary medicines alongside his conventional treatments.

I remember visiting the oncologist one day when they gave him a barrier cream to ‘help’ his radiation burn.

It was petroleum-based and I struggled with the thought that this by-product of oil refining could have any place ‘soothing’ radiation burn. So it went straight in the bin. Instead, I did my research and went about making him something natural. I came up with a cream based on calendula and vitamin E. Both Vitamin E and calendula provide anti-inflammatory and wound-healing benefits. Calendula also has some research showing its benefit in soothing radiation burn.

With the assistance of the oncology nurses, Dad was instructed to apply the cream daily, especially after radiation treatment. Not far into his treatment, the nurses were commenting on his radiation burn, and how much less it was compared to other patients. In fact, he had very little redness at all, which minimised his pain. I was so happy.

Unfortunately my father passed away the following year. His final words to me were ‘be strong’. And whilst I haven’t always lived up to his words, I feel his strength in me and am determined to use any lessons learned through his illness to help others.

Perhaps the greatest lesson I learnt from his passing was that natural skincare can have a profound effect. After my father died, I was inspired to continue to search for natural and organic alternatives for skin issues.

I dabbled with formulations for myself, family and friends. I was particularly obsessed with infusing botanicals in cold pressed oils. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it failed miserably. Slowly I put my chemistry lessons to good use and learnt how to make decent skincare products.

After two years working in complementary medicine research at a university, I went into private practice. Straight away I started making skincare formulations for clients, treating everything from acne to psoriasis, and the feedback I got from patients inspired me to do more.

It’s now 10 years since my father passed away and Clémence Organics is a fully fledged skincare line. We have 13 products and we’ve won 13 international beauty awards.

I know this sounds a bit silly because I’m not changing the world anywhere near the scale of someone like, say, Nelson Mandela, but I love being able to make a difference in people’s lives. Whether it’s helping a child with painful eczema or a woman with facial rosacea, sometimes all it takes is swapping one cream for another to make a life-changing difference to them. Above all though, it’s heartwarming to know that my father’s cancer spawned something so positive.

While you’re here, this is the real life story of a woman who found out she had cancer after reading an article about it, and the real life story of a woman who lost both her breasts to cancer.

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